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Personal Learning Networks (PLN): Everything You Need to Know

The Personal Learning Network is comprised of like-minded individuals who sharpen your knowledge in specific areas. The personal learning network can be broken down into three parts for better understanding: 

What’s Personal”?

The PLN is tagged “personal” because it allows you to choose how you interact with the network from start to finish. You can decide on the kind of people you want in the network, which information you’d like to share, the location where engagement happens, and what you want to know.  Depending on individual preferences, the approach to PLNvaries widely. While some people only get on the network because they want to listen in on invigorating conversations, others are more comfortable speaking about their thoughts and welcome the input of others.

With PLN, you can also choose the platform to share your thoughts. Several PLN users choose to go with online discussions, social media platforms such as YouTube or Twitter, or specialized online portals for PLN such as PLN for Educators.  As a PLN user, you can decide on using social networking sites to grow your network, such as chat rooms, photos, and text messages, as well as videos. All of these can be decided, depending on your preferences and needs. 

Again, it is not compulsory for you to have had previous personal interactions with those in your PLN. HOWEVER, the PLN activities will help you form bonds with these people based on shared experiences and ideas. In summary, the personalized aspect of the PLN deals with your ability to personally choose what, where, when, and who of your dealings on this network while also choosing the kind of energy in your space. All PLNs are unique. For instance, I was part of PLN in high school, comprised of students looking to increase their high school GPA.

How to Learn?

Learning opportunities are ever-present- and are innumerable. As growth can be accelerated by a cooperative partnership, you should always remain keen to learn. If you listen carefully, you will pick up golden ideas that you had never thought of when others in your field are speaking. As an educator, communication with other educators is a gold mine where you can pick up lifelong lessons and genius ideas to be implemented in your own classroom, as other educators come from varied backgrounds and have diverse experiences. 

This is where the Educators PLN comes in; on sites like this, you can become more exposed to different teaching strategies, innovative ways of disciplining students, world-class software packages, and riveting topical issues in the educational sphere. Also, because the internet has a global reach, you can ensure that national and international perspectives will be shared on your PLN. One of my master’s students started a PLN for each of her college courses.

Where to Network?

As earlier noted, a significant portion of the learning carried out on PLNs, is done via social networking sites like Twitter. Equally notable is that it isn’t the social platform that makes the network; instead, the individuals make up the network and enrich it with their unique perspectives. 

Platforms such as YouTube or Wikipedia should be considered for quick, technical queries which can be answered via a swift internet search. Though you might not have actively considered getting exceptional insight into your professional development from these sites, they are pretty good at providing you with amazing viewpoints and are tremendously useful tools for daily living.  

Other platforms that come highly recommended for the purpose of PLNs include Instapaper (which helps to bookmark and store interesting articles), Hootsuite (which helps to organize your online feeds and Twitter threads) & Evernote (which helps to quickly capture annotated material). 

What is the Importance of PLNs to Educators? 

Regardless of profession, PLNs are exceptionally useful. Still, educatorswill chiefly benefit from PLNs because most school districts aren’t buoyant enough to help educators scale up their professional development. Hence, even if you cannot attend those costly seminars you’ve been eyeing or are unable to purchase up-to-date software, you can and should join a PLN. In the end, your student’s grades increased because of it.

Who Else?

It is commonly debated by proponents of PLN that students can also be beneficiaries of the network. As such, it would be sensible to introduce students to PLNs through educators who are already members of such networks. Since collaboration is a necessary skill for progress, and children need to build this skill, then it would be very beneficial if children were handed these skills while they are still students.